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‘The Trip to Baikonur Blew My Mind!’

Launch of the CubeSX-HSE satellite on board the ‘Soyuz-2.1a’ launch vehicle, March 22, 2021

Launch of the CubeSX-HSE satellite on board the ‘Soyuz-2.1a’ launch vehicle, March 22, 2021
© HSE University

On Cosmonautics Day, the HSE News Service spoke with the participants of the CubSX-HSE project, which recently launched a satellite into Earth orbit. Students and staff from the HSE Moscow Institute of Electronics and Mathematics (MIEM) spoke about their project and impressions of their trip to Baikonur.

The HSE CubSX-HSE satellite was developed at the MIEM Laboratory of Space Vehicles and Systems' Functional Safety. The launch was initially scheduled for the autumn of 2020, but due to the pandemic, it was postponed to March 22, 2021. Following Baikonur tradition, on launch day, everyone who worked on the CubSX-HSE satellite was invited to watch the launch. Delegations from other universities and firms, including international companies, attended the launch – a total of 38 satellites were launched. In addition to watching the satellite launch, the team had the opportunity to visit museums, historical sites, and the cosmodrome itself.

‘It’s incredible to see the rocket be set up at the launch complex, realizing that it carries the devices that you worked on just a month ago,’ says Dmitry Abrameshin, Leading Engineer at the Laboratory of Space Vehicles and Systems' Functional Safety.

The CubeSX-HSE is a small spacecraft comprised of three blocks (each block being approximately 10 cm x 10 cm) mounted on a single frame. One of the units holds a flywheel assembly that orients the vehicle in space; the second includes all the boards for satellite operation; and the third is entirely dedicated to the payload — a camera for remote sensory analysis of the Earth.

HSE University’s satellite was developed jointly with experts from Sputnix, a privately-owned space company residing Skolkovo, the ‘Sirius’ educational centre and the Laboratory of Space Vehicles and Systems’ Functional Safety of the HSE Tikhonov Moscow Institute of Electronics and Mathematics (MIEM HSE), where staff and students assembled and tested all of the device’s control systems.

The project kicked off in 2018, when the laboratory received special advanced training equipment, which allowed them to work on the device’s development and train specialists to operate it. The participants decided that the device would be best used for remote sensory analysis of the Earth from space. So, together with specialists from the S. P. Korolev Samara University, a remote sensing camera was developed. The student participants’ job was primarily to ensure that all satellite systems correctly interacted with each other, with the camera, and the Earth. The researchers will receive and process the telemetry from the satellite together with the project’s general partner Scanex Group.

Leonid Romanov, HSE MIEM student, HSE Lyceum Graduate

I have always been fond of space, and here comes along this ambitious project! During our practical work on the project, I was helped set up systems for interacting with the satellite from the Earth at the MIEM mission control centre, as well as write software for the spacecraft’s orientation and stabilization while in orbit.

The trip to Baikonur blew my mind! While flying over the steppes of Kazakhstan, I saw unimaginable images of frozen rivers and red fields, which together created the feeling of being on some other unknown planet. During the tour itself, we visited many attractions, from museums to rocket prototypes. We also saw the legendary "Buran" and even got to go inside it.

Putting the Soyuz 2.1 on the launch pad was breathtaking and made me feel proud of my nation and my people, who managed to create something so grandiose. After the satellite was launched, I felt joy and, perhaps, the pride that a father feels when watching his son's success.

Vitaly Baleskin, HSE MIEM Student

My main goal was to learn as much as possible. At first, it was just a learning process, e.g., what sensors and systems are installed in the device, and how to control it. Then, I started working with engineering models and the antenna complex. This experience was very interesting, as the material is really complex. In regards to the practical part, it was not easy to understand how some subsystems work under real life conditions. I obtain the skills specific to this type of work, mainly on the sport and with the help of my colleagues and the employees of HSE partner companies.

The collection of one of the schools, which included fragments of the rocket hull and rare samples of launch vehicle engines particularly interested me during my trip to Baikonur.

Artemy Kosinov, Engineer at the Laboratory of Space Vehicles and Systems' Functional Safety

I had the chance to participate in the testing of an engineering sample of the device, as well as software for its functional tests. The most difficult thing was to compare the results with the planned indicators, since they did not always coincide. It was also very interesting to analyze the reasons why something does not work, or does not work as it should, and then correct the errors.

Artemy, together with his colleagues and the student winners of the Big Challenges programme at the Sirius Educational Centre, conducted functional tests and adjusted service algorithms for a month. Much of this experience was gained during communication sessions with the Sirius Sat-1 and 2 satellites, which were already in orbit.

After the successful launch, the next stage of extensive and complex work started – the lab staff now operates the devices using VHF radio equipment installed at MIEM and monitor the flight of the devices. The first task was to update the time indicators. At present, all service systems are being tested and, in future, the device will be put into regular operation.

Special thanks go to Elvira Polyakova, MIEM student, for her help in preparing the article

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